1st Edition – The IRB Nations Cup
G’Day RaboDirect Rebels supporters!
It has been a while since I last wrote to you from within the Russian Rugby camp.
Recently, I joined my comrades in Moscow where we had an intense three day camp at the Novogorsk Training Centre, which in many ways is similar to the Australian Institute of Sport. Novogorsk is a training community which hosts many athletes across different sports. While we were staying at Novogorsk we were sharing the facilities with gymnasts, wrestlers, basketball players, ice skater’s and footballers to name a few. Some athletes live there, while others, like us, come in for a few days of intense training before a competition.
The food hall is where everyone comes together three times a day and it was fascinating to see the different shapes and sizes of athletes. There were female basketball players who were taller than me and then gymnasts who were less than half my size. I very much enjoyed the food, it was all Russian cuisine, everything you could think of they had, it reminded me of my family Russian Christmas and Easter gatherings!
The reason for my trip is to play for Russia in the IRB Nations Cup. The competition is run by the International Rugby Board and is a tournament that is designed to give A sides and emerging rugby nations, such as Russia, more competitive matches each year. This year the competition is in Bucharest, Romania, somewhere I haven’t been before.
Russia play Italy A, Uruguay, and Argentina A.
Basically I just turned up and played for Russia in the World Cup last year. From this experience and my passion to grow the game in Russia, I have a strong desire to give back and help in any way that I can. I want to continue my association with Russian Rugby, I want to help them qualify for the next World Cup. That will mean playing in ‘qualifiers’ which begin next year.
The tournament is funded by the IRB and while it is a great initiative, it is interesting to see the big differences in funding of this tournament, to say what we take for granted playing an away game in Super Rugby. We left Moscow at 5am for the airport and flew to Prague where we spent a few hours. Then we flew to Bucharest, where we arrived in the afternoon. Almost a whole day spent in transit zigzagging across Europe when a simple direct flight would only have taken around 2hrs! Also, sharing our hotel are the Uruguay and Portugal sides…we play Uruguay! Well, it could certainly make for an interesting stay depending on how the game goes. I couldn’t imagine the Wallabies sharing a hotel and facilities with any of their opponents in any competition or game that they play.
It is good for me to experience these differences, it is so easy to take things for granted when you’re in the environment of professional sport. However, everyone in our camp is in good spirits and it feels good to be welcomed back.
Our 1st game was against Italy A. After getting off to a great start, scoring three tries pretty quickly, we let in two tries just before half time and our morale dropped. We never got back in the game after that and lost the match. The group has come a long way in a year, but we need to build belief in ourselves. The Russian squad are strong but they don’t know it. They haven’t had the experience of playing abroad so they see competitions such as Super Rugby, Heineken Cup, French Top 14 and believe that because their opponents play in these competitions, they must be better. It will take a good win or two to help them gain confidence, hopefully we can get up for the next game.
On a personal note, I played the whole game and loved being out there. I ripped a chunk of skin off the bottom of my foot, the worst blister/wound that I have ever sustained of this nature! Seriously though, it is bad. I posted a photo of it up on twitter and have already got some replies of people who are shocked! If I am to play in our next game on Tuesday I will definitely need a local anesthetic. But I didn’t come all this way to sit on the sideline, so I will speak to the coach and see what he thinks regarding training before the next game. We brought a squad of 26 so he might rest me, but I will be doing my best to convince him I want to play!
I’ll check in again after our next game against Uruguay.
If anyone has any questions or feedback for Adam please send to email@example.com
Meanwhile, you can follow Adam’s adventure on twitter via @Adam_Byrnes.